Teaching Responsibility

Apparently, it is crunch time in my daughter’s little academic world. And it is interesting to see how she reacts to it.

Menopause has its benefits – I’m far more patient now than I used to be. If I were a man, I’d be stroking my beard, staring off into space and saying (slowly), “Well, it seems to me…”

Last Day of NaNoWriMo

I just received this email from my daughter’s teacher:

I guess this is Emily’s focus position.
Haha! Last day to bust out those words!!

When I visited Em’s classroom a couple of weeks ago, she was at five percent of her monthly goal. And I have a sneaking suspicion that she might not have progressed very far past that in the weeks since (although I am holding out hope at being proved wrong at this).

Writing (and reading) are not at Em’s list of favorite things to do.

And this was a further reminder of the rocky start to our morning…

No Practice + Ultimatum From Teacher = Tears and Stress

Last night, I heard Em ask her dad to “wake her up early.” She didn’t specify when she wanted to be woken up, and so this morning, my husband woke her up at ten minutes before seven. Her normal wake-up time is 7 a.m. and she has 40 minutes to dress, brush her hair, and listen to me read aloud from a book before heading off to school.

Due to our neighborhood being rather impoverished, the school dispenses breakfast and lunch to everyone, regardless of their family income, so she eats two meals a day at school.

Oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth that came in the wake of her dad waking her with just ten minutes more to her morning! After she had calmed down a little, I went in and asked what was going on, and why had she needed to get up early.

“Ms. Ezge says I need to practice and if I don’t practice I’ll fail my trials.” Tears ran down her cheeks. “And now I don’t have time to practice!”

At the beginning of the school year, I had talked to her about setting up a regular practice schedule. She had agreed that she needed to practice regularly and decided that Sundays and Wednesdays would both be good practice days. I had stepped back then, unwilling to take on yet another thing I needed to remind her about, and of course, no practice had occurred.

And now, here we were, near the end of the first half of the school year and Em struggling to play the assigned music.

“Well, how about we skip reading and you just practice for me in the library? And then, after school, you can do a little practice as well before you go to Harmony Project.”

She nodded and smiled, “Yes, thank you, Mama, that will work.”

We ended up sitting for a few minutes in the library with me reading from the chapter while she calmed down and sipped her tea. “I tell you what, I’ll finish the chapter and then you can practice the cello for me.”

“Do we have enough time?”

“We do if you get your cello set up while I’m reading these last few pages.”


I finished reading the chapter and listened to her play. It was, in a word, excruciating. Her difficulty quite obviously stemmed from zero practice and after she had practiced for about 20 minutes, and looked ready to cry again, I held up my hand.

“Let’s stop for now. You know what you need to do, and you know this doesn’t happen overnight, right?”

Her little face looked so sad, “Yes, Mama.”

“This is your deal. This is your class and your life and YOU need to be the one who makes the decision to practice, or not. But you know what happens when you don’t practice. You struggle.”

She nodded, shoulders slumped.

“Each day, when I wake up, I ask myself, ‘What do I need to get done today?’ Sometimes I make a list. Because there are always so many things – from writing, to reading to you, to taking care of Gramps, or going and cleaning someone’s house. But these are things that need doing, just like you need to brush your teeth every day or take the garbage out on Tuesday night. It’s part of being a responsible human being.”

She straightened a little, “Hey, maybe I should make a chart of all the things I need to do each day. I could put it on my computer so I can’t open my computer until I get those things done.”

“That’s a good idea, kiddo.”

I’m so glad she suggested it and that I didn’t have to. Raising a child is a lot like learning math. The basics take a while, but they are so important. Just like you need to know basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division before you learn algebra – you need to be able to get dressed and brush your own hair before you drive a car.

I’ll follow up with her tomorrow on creating a chart. I’ll probably help her by typing it up with her directing me on what needs to happen each day.

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